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Why NEPA
February 08, 2022
Local Hoops Star Shines with the Harlem Globetrotters
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“Mighty” Mia Hopkins Readies for Home Court Debut with Globetrotters

 

Pittston H.S. Grad Traces Budding Pro Basketball Career Back to NEPA Roots.

The story begins with little Mia Hopkins, barely able to push a basketball up her driveway on Maple Lane. Her grandfather, John – a legendary local basketball coach. Her great uncle, Mike – the same. Her uncle, “Hoppy” – a basketball standout and eventual coach. There’s a NEPA hoops legacy pulsing through every muscular vibration. With a little help, she learns to dribble.

By 4 or 5, she’s at the Pittston Y, handling the ball like a pro. The shooting game was a work in progress. Even at this age, even when a hard-fought victory ended in a final score of 8-6, the little star drew quite a crowd. Die-hard local fans, Sharon and Angie, cling to the edge of the bleachers, seemingly willing each shot toward the basket with some form of Jedi magic. They never missed a game.

 

 

A player in search of a game.

Mia spends her formative years at Pittston Area dominating the Wyoming Valley Conference. Midway through her senior season, she’s locked in as a legendary Lady Patriot with her 1,000th career point. From dribbling up the driveway to Division I signing day, Mia’s dream of playing pro hoops enters a new phase – first Monmouth, then Bloomsburg and finally West Chester.

She flips an impressive college career, which included team leading stats and a first-round birth in the NCAA Women’s Final Four, into a Pro stint in Europe. She traveled. She played. She explored the world on a dream and a pocketful of talent. A bum knee brought her home for a bit. Then, the semi-pro game called her to Texas.

 

 

Wait… Is someone playing “Gonna Fly Now?”

Texas was somewhat of a test for Mia. The knee healed. She found a team, and she was back on the court. The pursuit of the game, though, required payment – a physical, emotional and financial tax, if you will. Mia was couch-bound, relying on the hospitality of teammates. Every worldly possession lay scattered about the backseat and trunk of her car. Nights seemed darker, colder. The whisper and warmth of mom’s home-cooked meals floated off into a gargantuan Texas sky. She felt alone in the world. Her dream dollied backward into an infant blurriness. Soon, an ill-fated game in Oklahoma, a loose ball, her unstoppable instinct to hustle and an otherwise typical tangle up led to a near-career-ending shoulder injury.

Again, she came home. With the help of family and friends, Mia found her way out of the dark and back into the gym. The shoulder recovered, somewhat miraculously, and she headed back to Texas to keep chasin’ that dream. But before she found herself staring down that darkness one more time, a chance phone call from an old coach with an invitation to reframe the narrative turned it all around.

We caught up with the Harlem Globetrotters’ newest superstar in and around her old Pittston stomping grounds. And over a tray at Savos, she dished on the pro circuit, playin’ in Europe, trying out for the Globetrotters and more. But we’ll let her tell it.

 

Your basketball career has taken you around the world. What’s one of your favorite places the sport has taken you?

Greece. For sure. It was a magical experience. And I absolutely loved that I got the opportunity to live there and be around that culture. I mean, I really loved it there (Laughs). I played in the Czech Republic, Ireland, France, but Greece was my favorite. I just loved the beauty, the scenery, the culture and the vibe.

When you think about the legacy of basketball in Northeastern Pennsylvania, what comes to mind?

There’s definitely a lot of grittiness and toughness in the basketball around here. I definitely remember looking up to the older players when I was a kid. You know, when I was in middle school, I thought the high school team was so amazing. It’s kind of silly when I look back, but, in that moment, when I was little, I thought it was so cool watching those bigger kids play basketball. I thought I was seeing something special – almost like they were pros or something (laughs).

Is NEPA still home?

Yes. It’s definitely the roots for me. I like to move around though. I am kind of a free spirit. I love to travel and staying in one place for too long makes me a little crazy. But, on the flip side of that, that’s what makes me truly appreciate coming home to Pittston. Like, right now, it’s like bliss. I’m super happy to be back. I was just hanging with my neighbors and my family today. And we’re making plans to hit the Tomato Bar on Saturday night. Look, I’m on the move – that’s part of who I am, but I love coming home and feeling connected. You need that, you know? I absolutely adore everyone that I have here, and the love and support I have here at home. It’s really unmatched, honestly. I have so much support here, and not just from family. I get it from totally random people – showing me love in-person and on social media. That’s really special to me.

Natural talent and hard-earned skill account for a lot, but there seems to be a little bit more involved in being a Harlem Globetrotter. Tell us about that process of becoming a Globetrotter.

So, I think once you become a Globetrotter, there are levels to it. And I think it’s really more about who you want to be as a member of this unique team. You are your own individual character, like I’m “Mighty”. So, I get to choose who I want “Mighty” to be and I continue to develop those skills. Like I said, there are levels to it. So, you have to ask how far do you want to take your character? Do I want to be all about great ball handling skills? I can go out there dribbling like five basketballs and spinning the ball and getting crazy with that. Do I want to be a dead-eye shooter? I can go out there and make 4-pointers and leave the crowd astonished that this girl can sink half court shots all day, you know? And that all comes down to my choice now – who I want “Mighty” to be. And that’s what I’m going to focus on. So, it’s basically like mapping out your week with so many hours doing ball handling skills and so many hours focusing just on shooting. I just have to decide exactly what the right pieces are for me to become the best Globetrotter that I can be.

Did you watch the Globetrotters when you were a kid? Do you have a Globetrotter moment?

Yeah. Definitely. I think the cartoon was before my time, but I remember seeing them on Scooby-Doo (laughs). I loved Scooby when I was a kid. Now I kind of wanna’ watch it when I go home. I did see them live about two or three times growing up. And it’s crazy because, last time I was home, my mom brought out the signed program from one of those times we went to see them. And that blew my mind. You know, when you’re a kid, the Globetrotters seem like superheroes. They still are, I guess. My teammates can do things so effortlessly – dunking, shooting. I don’t think most people really understand how much practice and talent that takes. It’s insane how they make it look so easy. Like, in our Spread Game Tour, we usually have these dunk competitions, and being able to see them hit these dunks it so incredible. It’s honestly kind of humbling to be a part of that and really cool. It’s cool being a Globetrotter (laughs).

You will be playing on the Globetrotter’s international roster. What does that mean for you?

Ok. So, the Globetrotters have several different rosters – mainly because there are so many games. And I will be playing on the team that’s going to be here in Wilkes-Barre on the 12th. They like to make sure you get to play in your home city. So, in prep for that game, I’ll be playing with that team in a couple of games throughout the region. Now, my team, we just had a short domestic tour, but our major tours are international, and they start in April. So, basically from April through November, I’ll be all over the map (laughs).

There’s a lot of training and a lot of sacrifice involved in making it at this level. It also requires a lot of support. Who’s behind you? Who was there for you through the good and bad, the ups and downs?

My family, of course. But I need to shout out to my grandma, Angie Hopkins. She was my number one fan. And she would have been so proud. She was there for everything – my ultimate supporter. It didn’t matter what I was doing, she was there for me. Even in those early games, where the score was like 4-2, when I was a little kid, she was the one that was there. My grandpa, he had a hard time making it through those games, but she was ride or die for me. She took me everywhere to do everything. So, grandma, for sure.

And then I’d have to say my mom, Sharon. She sacrificed everything for me to be successful. She gave everything she had for me to be able to play AAU and drove me everywhere – just so I can get seen, you know, by scouts and other teams. And it worked. I got to go to college to play basketball. I got signed by a DI school straight out of high school. So, everything they did for me, all that support they gave me – it definitely worked.

There’s a young girl here somewhere dribbling up and down the driveway, practicing her jump shot, maybe looking for a reason to keep playing. You’ve been through it. Any words of wisdom?

Keep it goin’. Absolutely. Keep it goin’. Stay the course. It’s not always clear cut. You have stay faithful to yourself. Things don’t always work out perfectly, but you can’t quit. The only way to achieve your goals is to never give up on them. Don’t quit on yourself. Look at it this way, you can give yourself breaks. You can take time away here and there if you need it, but you have to understand that the journey continues. And it’s all about that journey, isn’t it? It’s about the time you put in and the pain you endured on your way to that destination. It prepares you. It makes you ready to work for it and it makes you want it. So, it tests you. And you have to prove that you’re worthy. Achieving a dream is all about time and sacrifice and figuring out exactly what you’re willing to overcome to reach your goal.

And finally… NEPA pizza. Who’s your favorite?

Honestly, I’m between two. But you know I gotta’ stay here in my hometown. I’m going with Sabatini’s and Tony’s. It’s not a tie, though. Let’s put Tony’s first. Gotta’ rep, you know? (laughs).

Don’t miss “Mighty” Mia Hopkins and her high-flyin’, half-court-shootin’ teammates as the Harlem Globetrotters bring their Spread Game Tour to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, February 12.